Neck and back pain are two of the most common chronic pain conditions. While there is no single solution for resolving pain along the spine, speaking with your doctor about the non-surgical options available could make your pain management process much less strenuous.
In some cases, traditional surgery simply cannot be avoided. For serious conditions like spinal stenosis or severe spine injury, minimally-invasive treatments simply won’t be effective options for proper healing and impactful pain relief.
For lesser conditions, however, there are several non-surgical pain intervention techniques that may be taken into consideration by your doctor. In a majority of cases, patients will be referred to a pain management specialist or a neurosurgeon who is familiar with the specific procedures recommended by their doctor.
Here are a few options to consider and discuss with your primary care physician:
Steroidal Injections, Nerves – Epidural injections, or injections around the spinal cord, are the most common non-surgical technique used to treat neck and back pain. Your doctor or pain specialist will inject a corticosteroid into or around the covering of the nerve in order to reduce inflammation and alleviate the pain response.
Steroidal Injections, Joints – In addition to the nerves, corticosteroids can also be injected directly into the facet joints of the spine. This technique is often used to alleviate the pain in parts of the spine that have become arthritic.
Radiofrequency Ablation – This technique, also referred to as neurolysis, involves inserting a small probe into the pain site, usually a disc or joint. Thermocoagulation, isolated bursts of heat, is then used to destroy the nerve roots so that they can no longer transmit pain to the affected area.
All of these treatments have the same goal. Each aims to relieve pressure on the spine, or to alleviate irritation of the nerves so that the pain response is no longer triggered. Minimally-invasive techniques have been used to treat a variety of minor conditions, including fused discs, spinal deformities and chronic pain resulting from muscle strain. It’s important to remember that spine pain is highly subjective and that potential channels of treatment will depend on each patient’s pathology. When in doubt, your doctors and surgeons will be the ones who make the call as to whether or not a minimally-invasive approach is best.
Navigating the Pain Management Process
Patients may be surprised to learn that these treatments aren’t always carried out by surgeons. The landscape of pain management has changed drastically over the years, allowing for pain interventionists and physicians in other disciplines to study and implement these techniques. Patients should exercise caution when considering options in smaller or clinics, and should trust the referrals from their doctors and surgeons over information from less-reputable sources.
South Shore’s comprehensive approach to pain management addresses the physical, emotional, and post-procedural needs of patients with chronic pain. Our dedicated Spine Center offers a full spectrum of pain management service ranging from neurosurgical specialists to physical therapists and counseling or social support resources for patients’ post-procedural recovery.
Learn more about our back, neck and spine pain treatment programs at southshorehealth.org